In the midst of his summer-long vacation to a small, quiet campground on the Kenai River, Doug Bangle did not expect to wake to the sounds of screaming in the middle of the night.
He, his wife and son and several other campers staying in Iva’s Place RV Park in Soldotna were confused and alarmed when they heard cries for help coming from the water just before 4 a.m. Tuesday.
Bangle and others found that a 15-year-old girl had fallen into the river upstream and been carried down to a fallen tree that had lodged in front of their campsite a few days before, where Bangle said she was clinging onto a branch. Based on what the teen said when she was pulled from the water, she may have slipped from a dock, but Bangle said she was in shock and not speaking clearly.
“You could hear the terror in her voice,” said his son, Ryan Bangle.
Doug Bangle, who lives in Alberta, Canada, but has vacationed at Iva’s Place on the Kenai River every summer for more than a decade, said his first instincts were to grab his phone and his boat keys from where they hung in his RV.
He shouted to the teen that help was coming before dialing 911, he said. He and his son took their boat out to where the girl clung to the snagged tree, while other campers gathered blankets and waited at a nearby pavilion.
Washington resident Marie Andersen, a fellow camper, is an old friend of Doug Bangle’s and saw the men go for their boat.
“His son Ryan actually lifted her out of the water,” Andersen said.
It did not appear the fallen tree was lodged very securely in the river, Ryan Bangle said.
“When my dad was drifting to her, she kind of just lunged at the boat and I grabbed her arms and yanked her in,” he said. “And as soon as my dad bumped the log — like, he didn’t hit it hard — it washed away. It was kind of freaky, because it wasn’t in there very good but it was just good enough for her to hold on to.”
Once the girl was on dry land, Fay Bangle, Doug’s wife, and friend Patricia Knott, who spends her winters in Florida, helped dry her off and warm her up. Minutes later, Alaska State Troopers and ambulances arrived on the scene, they said.
“It sounded like — I thought a bear got someone,” Knott said of the teen’s cries for help.
The Bangles said a number of factors, like their RV windows being open and that Doug and Ryan Bangle are both trained in emergency response, contributed to a good ending to a dangerous situation. Doug Bangle retired from a 34-year career with the Royal Canadian Mounted Police.
Ryan Bangle said while he is normally able to walk across this particular part of the river somewhat easily in waders, the water is higher this year than in the past and very cold. He and other campers described the girl as disoriented when she was pulled from the water.
Lt. Dane Gilmore with the Soldotna post of the Alaska State Troopers said the teen was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital.
Reach Megan Pacer at firstname.lastname@example.org.